Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 23
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
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“Keeping Things Vibrant”: Hometown Princeton Focuses on Buying Local to Boost Business

Dilshanie Perera

Faced with the effects of the economic downturn on businesses, merchants in town are forming a group to promote the benefits of buying local.

Organized by retailer Nick Hilton and recently named “Hometown Princeton,” the group aims to assemble a cohort of 30 stores to educate the public about why it is important to support local businesses. Mr. Hilton said he envisions a September launching for their advertising campaign.

At a recent Hometown Princeton planning meeting, Fran McManus of the Whole Earth Center observed that residents “benefit from being in a town with interesting, independently-owned businesses,” and that explaining those benefits to the community is important.

Ms. McManus further noted that the members of Hometown Princeton should all be stores that have discretionary power over purchasing, and that hire locally. She spoke of “an entire cycle” involved in running a business with a hometown sensibility that includes purchasing goods locally, and renting properties from local owners.

“This is a time when we’re all hurting,” Mr. Hilton acknowledged, adding that if merchants band together in this way, they can help one another weather the fiscal crisis.

Mr. Hilton explained that Hometown Princeton was envisioned outside of the Borough Merchants for Princeton in order to devote all of its energies to the “local first” campaign and to get it off the ground as quickly as possible.

While there was some debate about criteria for membership in Hometown Princeton, a consensus was reached that included merchants, retailers, and restaurants, and that deemed service companies to be outside the purview of the group.

“The ‘Buy Local’ movement has been very strong in the food world,” Ms. McManus reported, adding that some of the local restaurants have partnered with farms in the area, and that they understand the idea behind the “local first” campaign almost intuitively.

After raising awareness through the advertising campaign, Mr. Hilton said he envisions the organization investing in local charitable causes, and donating money to non-profits in town. Partnerships between merchants, residents, and organizations in Princeton are key, he noted.

“When money is spent in the community, it tends to stay in the community, keeping things vibrant,” Ms. McManus said.

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